Ask Dr Aaron

YOU ASKED THE QUES­TIONS, CHILD PSY­CHOL­O­GIST DR AARON FROST GIVES YOU THE AN­SWERS. EMAIL YOUR QUES­TIONS TO ED­I­TOR@HAVEN­MAGAZINE.COM.AU

Haven Magazine - - Wellbeing -

Q

My pri­mary-school-aged son and daugh­ter are poles apart in their at­ti­tudes to school and their abil­ity to learn. I’m won­der­ing if there’s a sci­en­tific or psy­cho­log­i­cal dif­fer­ence be­tween boy and girl stu­dents, how they learn and how they per­form? Or is it just a per­son­al­ity thing be­tween my two?

A

Yes – boys tend to learn in more hands-on ways and are of­ten more dis­tractible and less stu­dious. They are also typ­i­cally later to ma­ture and de­velop the abil­ity to fo­cus. Hav­ing said all that, you are right to ask if per­son­al­ity plays a big part be­cause, de­spite what I’ve just said, there are heaps of very fo­cused and mo­ti­vated boys and just as many dis­tractable and ac­tive girls, how­ever they aren’t the norm.

Q

My 7-year-old son doesn’t re­ally like school much. He doesn’t have any prob­lems with the other chil­dren (bul­ly­ing etc) that I’m aware of. He just doesn’t like go­ing to school. How can I help him change his at­ti­tude?

A

If you look at the aca­demic out­comes for boys these days, they are do­ing worse than girls across the board. The school sys­tem, as it is set up cur­rently, isn’t work­ing bril­liantly for a lot of boys and un­sur­pris­ingly a lot of them don’t en­joy it. We are un­likely to re-shape schools any time soon, so per­haps the best you can do is to help him rekin­dle his love of learn­ing. We are all born cu­ri­ous and we are de­signed to ex­plore and to learn. Some­where in amongst times ta­bles, rote his­tory lessons and spell­ing tests that love of learn­ing be­comes a chore. Out­side of school you can help him to at least re­mem­ber how much he loves learn­ing new things. Teach him how to build a fort in the back­yard, how to nav­i­gate while bush­walk­ing or how to make his own web­page. With a bit of luck, you can also help him find the fun parts of what he is learn­ing at school.

Q

How much is too much ex­tracur­ric­u­lar? My daugh­ter is 10 and wants to try her hand at (it seems) ev­ery­thing but I want her to put her mind to her school­work. What’s your opin­ion on ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties for pri­mary school stu­dents?

A

I see so many over-tired, emo­tional and over-sched­uled chil­dren each week. I get the im­pres­sion that some­one sent out a memo say­ing “Your chil­dren must be busy dur­ing all wak­ing hours or you are fail­ing as a par­ent”. Per­son­ally, I think a good rule of thumb is one ac­tiv­ity per week, at least in early pri­mary. But every child is dif­fer­ent. Some will thrive on be­ing so busy and learn­ing so much while oth­ers will find even a weekly pi­ano les­son un­pleas­ant. So look care­fully at how your child is re­act­ing. I also think it is im­por­tant to be a bit strate­gic with your ex­tracur­ric­u­lar choices. Why are you sign­ing your kid up for some­thing? If they have a real tal­ent and you want to help them ex­plore it, that is great. Or if they have a real area of weak­ness and you want to give them a chance to work on it, that is also good.

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